How Do I Revive the Playlist
Susan B., Oklahoma
I have a sister and brother (11 and 8) who have been taking for 2 years now in a Shared Lesson and are in Level 4, but cannot play very many of the songs from Levels 1-3. My routine with lessons is that the first thing the student does in their lesson is to pick a stick with a review song written on it. If they can play it without help from me then they get to put a sticker in their Notebook which goes toward earning a prize from the “prize basket”. Then, periodically, I spend most or all of a lesson reviewing all the previous songs.
All of my other students are doing fine keeping their Playlists alive. These two students are definitely my most challenging because they are very assertive and opinionated. Plus their mom just sits there and reads a book. She has told me that she just doesn’t want to push them because she wants them to enjoy piano and their lessons.
What makes it more difficult for me is that we go to the same church and I’ve had a hard time being firm. However, I wish now that I would have even if it meant losing them as students b/c now I’m not sure how to proceed. I did send out a letter yesterday to all of my students regarding dates, etc., and I said that I needed them to sign the contract attached stating that they would commit to practicing 15 – 20 minutes a day, plus use the Student Home Materials as instructed. I asked the parents to sign stating that they would encourage, support, and hold their child accountable to practicing and using the Home Materials.
Any ideas on how to proceed with these students would be greatly appreciated.
Cindy B., Illinois
You need to have the ‘life coach-method coach’ conversation with Mom. She needs to understand that it isn’t ‘pushing’ them to insist they brush their teeth or go to school, any more than it is to attend to their piano lessons and practices. If her children fail in Simply Music, it’s because she has failed them. It’s NOT your job to go to their home and ‘push’ them for Mom.
Georgia H., Western Australia
This is a tricky one for you. Keeping the Playlist alive is the biggest challenge for both students and teachers. It sounds like you are saying the right thing, as all your other students are playing well. If the mother is not interested in pushing them it may be a good time to re-listen to the Relationship/ Foundation audio training. It also sounds like the students are strong-willed and have claimed territory.
One of the things I really stress right from the start is that THIS IS A PLAYING BASED METHOD – YOU HAVE TO PLAY.
You are stuck at the moment with them because you have nowhere else to take them. It’s absolutely crucial that they play all their songs. You need to get them to agree to get their Playlist back again before you can teach them any new ones.
One thing I have found works well for me is to split the Playlist into sections to make it more manageable. eg. At the top of the play list are written songs that must be played everyday. This of course includes any new ones they are working on, be it an Arrangement, Variation, Accompaniment, improvisation/composition. They only earn the right to put this in another section if they can play it really well. This is the real PRACTICE time. Once the pieces are moved to another section they are then PLAYING them.
In each section they have the days of the week written in the area next to the name of the pieces, and play them on these days. This could be put into levels or streams.
So on Monday they practice all their new ones and play all their blues and classics. Tuesday, new ones and all Accompaniments and Arrangements and Compositions. Wednesday, new ones and ballads and blues again.etc.
I find this really useful when the Playlist gets lost through laziness, illness, holidays and life’s busy times. Hope this helps.
Cheryl G., Pennsylvania
I think that sooner or later, after we have enough of these types of experiences where we allow the students to take control, that we will learn to nip it in the bud from the first moment when we feel our stomachs turn 🙂
With your students I would not teach them any new songs until you have reviewed and relearned if necessary all the old ones. One old song a week isn’t enough. You have to go through all the old songs. Spend as many lessons as is necessary. They have to know how important it is to keep the Playlist alive. Make them keep the practice grid too. They probably aren’t doing that either. I wonder if they’re even watching the videos. Are they? Ask them every week about keeping the practice grid and watching the tapes. You can’t let them off the hook.
Explain to them and the mother how they need to know all the songs or you will not be able to start the Reading Program. Do they want to go into the Reading Program? If so, then there are certain rules they have to follow. I don’t give stickers out, but if they’re used to getting stickers, maybe you should tell them they won’t get another one until they learn all the old songs correctly 🙂 Tell both them and their mother what you are doing and why. However, if the mother doesn’t see you as being in charge then i think it’s a lost cause.
As far as the mom sitting and reading a book, with my new students i pull up a chair for the parent right next to the piano and they are watching the lesson and hopefully learning the songs too.
I thought you might be interested to hear about two of my own students.
I have had two ‘difficult’ new students recently, both in Private Lessons. One is a 6 year old boy who has a short attention span and just starts doing his own thing on the piano and stops listening to me. I said to him something like “Robert, I won’t be able to teach you unless you sit still and listen to me.” I explained to his mother that I wasn’t trying to be “mean” but I couldn’t allow him to take control. She understood that perfectly. She also tells her son to sit still. So he buckles down and sits still, and when it happens again I simply stop the lesson until it’s under control. I’m not sure if they will continue lessons into the school year or not.
I have another new student, a 10 year-old girl, who is extremely intelligent and outspoken and likes to do things her own way. I told her repeatedly to slow down. She came in for her fourth lesson I think and played Jackson Blues way too fast, just sloshing her left-hand thumb back and forth and not lifting her fifth finger at all. I made her stop and explained how to do it correctly (seems the mother had it wrong too. They thought they didn’t have to lift finger 5). Anyway, the girl liked it better her way and didn’t want to change. I “made” her do it correctly, with a tremendous amount of resistance on her part and trying to convince me that her way was better. After she played it “my way” I told her how good that was and that I was happy. However the girl was not happy at all and had her arms folded and was looking down with a big frown. I said something like “I’m very happy with your playing but I can see that you’re not happy at all, are you?” She said “no” and gave me a look to kill! I said something like “wow, that was really a dirty look!” She was either ready to cry or to explode. I asked her if she wanted to stop the lesson and go home. She said yes (this was after no more than 10 minutes into the lesson). So they left. The girl and her mom sat outside talking for the rest of the lesson time.
Before the next lesson I called to talk to the mother at home about it. The mom had no problem with what I did and said they’d be in for the next lesson. However if her daughter was “unable” to listen to me then that would be the last lesson. I told the mom that from a parenting point of view, what would that be communicating to her daughter? — that the girl would “win” if quitting lessons is what she wanted.
Anyway at the next lesson she played it correctly and asked me why it had to be played that way. So I showed her the music and explained that the songs were written a certain way and had to be learned that way so that later on when we refer to the music they will have learned it the same way. That seemed to suffice. We also had a heart-to heart talk and smoothed things out.
This week the mom forgot about the lesson! so we’ll see what happens next week.